1in6 Thursday: Ending Homophobia, One Brother at a Time
I remember the interview like it was yesterday. The year was 1984, and I was a oh-so-young, oh-so-green social work student conducting an interview with a veteran gay activist at our local GLBTQ center. (Mind you, many of those letters weren’t spoken of back then). I was 24 years-old, straight-define, and I literally quivered with nervousness at being, for the first time in my life, in queer-defined space. My purpose of the meeting—to research the history and advocacy of the centre for my studies in community development—belied my internal emotional state.
Let me be clearer: I shook.
Now, close to 30 years later, I look at this memory and I have pride and compassion for this young man who chose to face his discomfort so openly. Score: Rick, 1, Homophobia, 0.
Homophobia, that “range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” (according to Wikipedia,) is something that I grew up with, both in my home and in my community. The taunts of the boys who seemed effeminate, the jokes that they sat on their fingers, the bullying and shaming of any boy who seemed soft were all part of it. Were all part of me.
I think I was particularly drawn to homophobia, much like I was drawn to other attitudes in which I could be in the “long end of the stick” crowd. It was this: I was sexually abused as a kid. By a man. As with so many male survivors, I was stuck on two things: that I must have caused the abuse (children think this way—it’s how they and their developing minds try to make sense of the world)—and that the guy must have been gay (again, that wasn’t the word we used back then) to have done this to me.
Many male survivors of sexual abuse think this. Not surprisingly, research indicates that male survivors—both gay and straight—are more homophobic than men who have not been victimized. Yes, you read right. Gay men can be homophobic – it’s not just a straight man’s issue.
So now we need to partition the general run-of-the-mill type of homophobia that remains stubbornly present in parts of society and the trauma-induced homophobia that can be deeply set in many men.
We know that homophobia, like sexism, is a tenet of rigid, traditional masculinity, one of the four codes of the male identity that were first articulated in the 1970s by David and Brannon. This “tough guy” ideology is an extension of everyday masculinity, what we call “hyper-masculinity.” Both research and conceptual understandings suggest that some (but not all) male survivors take on hyper-masculinity as a protective stance against the shame of their victimization. Think about an image of a biker gang and you can see men who exaggerate their gender code, possibly to protect themselves from past wounds.”
But not all survivors are like this. For men who struggle in understanding their victimization, there develops a fascinating window of reformulating their masculinity and self identity. In doing this deep, deep work, there is no room for posturing their masculinity. For men in recovery, there can develop a wonderful openness to other men as they practice such openness—and compassion—with themselves. For men who are both straight and gay, this interconnection and transcendence would not be reached otherwise.
I see this in the treatment groups that we run, and how the men work hard at emotional intimacy with each other. I witness this at conferences and retreats with male survivors, noting how intertwined and affectionate many of the men are with each other, regardless of orientation. For men who learned fear and loathing at an early age, it is wonderful site to behold.
People often think that being a victim of violence is a hellish place to be. It most often is. But many gains, strengths and insights are to be had in the struggle to re-discover ourselves. One such gift is to see other men not as threats, but as brothers-in-arms, regardless of whether they are straight or gay.
Now, when I hear homophobic remarks by a man, I don’t try to respond by clubbing him with shame or judgement. Instead, I try to unearth the foundation to his stance. Chances are it just may be his way to protect his wounds. In my words, I try to create a safe enough place so he can disclose to me what drives this negativity. With patience and connection, he may be able to find a way out of this discomfort, and find out more about himself along the way. Indeed, by doing so, he just may be making some friends—and brothers—he thought he never had.
Rick Goodwin, MSW RSW is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Men’s Project, a sexual abuse treatment center in Ottawa, Canada. Along with its trauma recovery program, The Men’s Project also provides treatment and support on issues such as anger management, emotional intelligence and fathering. It is one of four such counseling agencies for male survivors in Canada. Rick also serves as an Advisory Board member to 1in6 Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends, and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.
|Print article||This entry was posted by 1in6org on August 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm, and is filed under 1in6 Thursdays, Child Abuse and Neglect, Engaging Men, From Our Partners, Our Issues, Sexual Assault, Survivor Stories. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
No trackbacks yet.
about 3 months ago - No comments
Every man is responsible for painting his own picture of what kind of man he wants to be, and if enough men paint with respect and real courage, then perhaps, “machismo” will come to include a grand masterpiece of tolerance and nonviolence that encourages men to freely show their vulnerabilities and to begin to heal from their childhood injuries.
about 5 months ago - No comments
Why? We ask it all the time. It is the ultimate question resulting in what we hope to be the ultimate answer to bring us some form of closure and comfort.
about 7 months ago - No comments
For several days, one sentence has continued to trouble me: “I’ll never forgive you.” Those words were spoken by the man identified only as Victim 4 at the Jerry Sandusky sentencing on October 9, 2012. His words say several things to me. The most obvious is that he expresses the pain that comes from betrayal.…
about 10 months ago - No comments
When an opportunity arose for me to join the Boy Scouts as a teen, I jumped at the chance and throughout my time as a Scout, took great pride in my membership and learned from my own Scoutmaster, a role model in my life. But it’s come to light that hundreds of Scoutmasters broke the trust parents and scouts placed in them.
about 10 months ago - No comments
If we’re not ending violence against men, we’ll never end violence.
about 11 months ago - 1 comment
In this issue, we turn our attention to child abuse and neglect, and our collective efforts to heal, educate and empower future generations. As the mother of three kids, this issue is near and dear to my heart. And I think it will touch the heart of anyone who has ever looked at a child and thought, “I want nothing but the best for you.”
about 1 year ago - No comments
oday, there are nearly 700 child advocacy centers nationwide, and more on the way. But it was here in New York City in 1996, when Safe Horizon opened the first fully co-located CAC in the United States, that the idea blossomed and yielded the great results we see today.
about 1 year ago - 1 comment
The commencement speaker at my niece’s graduation this past weekend startled some in the audience when he noted that having to overcome adversity is a normal part of a achieving a fulfilling life.. And like he told the graduates—overcoming adversity has been an important part for me in creating a fulfilling life.